Lionel Messi has revealed that he "tried to go back" to Barcelona and considered a move to the Saudi Pro League prior to signing for MLS outfit Inter Miami.
The legendary forward left Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the 2022/23 season and was initially tipped to re-join Barcelona as a free agent. However, in part due to the club's well-documented financial issues, a move to La Blaugrana never materialised.
Speaking to TIME after being named their Athlete of the Year, Messi revealed that he wanted to return to Barca, but a move wasn't possible.
"The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyse them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami," he said.
"My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible. I tried to return, and it did not happen."
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Messi previously confirmed that he opted not to return to Barcelona - the club where he won the UEFA Champions League four times and is the all-time top goalscorer - due to the need for the club to either sell players or lower salaries in order to be able to register the forward's contract.
One rumoured destination which would not have had financial constraints to think about when offering Messi a contract was the Saudi Pro League. The reigning Ballon d'Or winner reportedly rejected a contract worth over £300m per year from Saudi club Al Hilal in the summer - opting instead to join MLS side Inter Miami.
"It is also true that later I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country and they have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future," said Messi about the interest from Saudi Pro League teams.
"As the country's tourism ambassador, it was a destination that attracted me, especially because I've enjoyed everything I have visited, because of how football is growing in the country and because of the effort they are putting into creating a top competition.
"It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me."
Messi recently finished up his first season in north America, a season in which he guided Inter Miami to a Leagues Cup triumph - the first trophy the club has ever won.